With the 2020-2021 Michigan State men’s basketball season over, we will take individual looks at how each Spartan performed over the course of the year.
In our 11th edition of the series, we turn our eyes to the end of the bench, where true freshman Mady Sissoko spent quite some time — yet he also showed flashes of why he won’t stay there for too long.
Averages per game: 5.4 minutes, 1.1 points, 1.8 rebounds, 0.0 assists, 0.0 steals, 0.4 blocks, 58.8% fields goal percentage, no three pointers taken, 43.8% free throw percentage
Sissoko was labeled a project early on since he didn’t really play a lot of organized basketball before arriving in East Lansing. And while you can’t describe him as anything but raw, his first year for the Spartans gave a lot of hope that he can turn into a major contributor down the road. Whenever the athletic Sissoko saw minutes, he played with hellbent energy, didn’t back down from any challenge and played as aggressive as anybody on the court. His potential as a rim protector is off the charts, as he already had four games with multiple blocks despite never seeing more than 12 minutes of playing time. His long arms also made him a strong rebounder, often going out of his area to grab the ball out of the air. His presence was noticeable as he had to be accounted for on both ends of the floor.
Sissoko was mobile, active and energetic, often impacting the play even if the ball was away from him. On offense, he showed a nice touch here and there with some very smooth hook shots and even a free throw line jumper off a turnaround. Another feather in his cap was how ready he always looked to play (even after he tested positive for COVID-19). No matter if he entered the game early in the first half or during garbage time, the center was focused and had his mind in the game. His best games of the year were probably an eight-point-effort against Michigan, and the road game versus Purdue (five points, four rebounds in six first half minutes).
With all the positives mentioned, Sissoko clearly is still extremely raw as a basketball player. His rebounding numbers per 40 minutes look astonishing, but so do his fouls (7.1 per 40 minutes). Sissoko can often play out of control, taking too many steps hedging, over-helping or just pummeling into opponents causing many quick whistles. His own offense outside of finishing a drop off is a serious work in progress as he will have to learn to be a constant part of the team’s ball movement and operations. He also has to become a much better free throw shooter, too, even if his numbers are only based on 16 shots taken. Mentally the game is still moving one or two levels too fast for him at times, which leads to him being out of position or late for a number of plays.
Defensively, that mostly shows up when he is asked to guard his opponent on the perimeter. Tom Izzo and company ask a lot of their big men in pick and roll situations and Sissoko has a lot of growing up to do in that regard. His lateral mobility and his reaction to offensive movements needs to be improved. While he is a physical specimen already, Sissoko would profit from a few more extra pounds of weight to counter some of the bigger players that he’s facing.
Mady Sissoko showed a lot of promise and should take a big step forward with an entire offseason to add to his game. As raw as he is, though, it will take a while for him to really become someone who challenges for the starting lineup. Yet, there is no reason why he shouldn’t see a much bigger role next year in which he can provide serious energy and intensity off the bench.
OVERALL SEASON GRADE